Web service

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A web service is typically an application programming interface (API) or Web API that is accessed via Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and executed on a remote system, hosting the requested service. Web services tend to fall into one of two camps: big web services[1] and RESTful web services.

The W3C defines a "web service" as "a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network. It has an interface described in a machine-processable format (specifically Web Services Description Language WSDL). Other systems interact with the web service in a manner prescribed by its description using SOAP messages, typically conveyed using HTTP with an XML serialization in conjunction with other Web-related standards."[2]

The W3C also states, "We can identify two major classes of Web services, REST-compliant Web services, in which the primary purpose of the service is to manipulate XML representations of Web resources using a uniform set of "stateless" operations; and arbitrary Web services, in which the service may expose an arbitrary set of operations."[3]


Big web services

"Big web services" use Extensible Markup Language (XML) messages that follow the SOAP standard and have been popular with traditional enterprise. In such systems, there is often a machine-readable description of the operations offered by the service written in the Web Services Description Language (WSDL). The latter is not a requirement of a SOAP endpoint, but it is a prerequisite for automated client-side code generation in many Java and .NET SOAP frameworks (frameworks such as Spring, Apache Axis2 and Apache CXF being notable exceptions). Some industry organizations, such as the WS-I, mandate both SOAP and WSDL in their definition of a web service.

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